September 29, 2008

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The following was posted on the Premium Forum:

Hi SoccerHelp,

I co-coach a 7th grade Rec team that is playing 11v11 for the first time and we were given 7 new players by the league, making us 18 strong. Five of the new players are good players left over from another team that dissolved after last season. The league requires each player play at least half of the game. If you do the math, that means that all but three (discounting the keeper) will play only half the game. We're trying to decide on the best frequency and timing for substitutions. One alternative is to sub three times per half in two groups (excluding the three that play a full half). That way, all players play at least half of each half, rotating every 7-8 minutes (approximately). Another is to sub every ten minutes, meaning that both groups of players plays ten minutes in one half and twenty minutes in the other half. I'd be very interested in any reactions or input members have to this question. Thanks.

7th Grade Coach

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Hi 7th Grade Coach,

If you go to the article "Substituting - When and How" there are ideas about this. I've pasted some below. In the article is a sample of the Roster I used. Keep in mind that you won't be able to sub exactly at 7 minutes. So, if you want to sub every 7 minutes, set your watch for 5 minutes -- that will usually let you sub between 5 and 7 minutes.

Keeping track of 18 players is tough. Below is the approach that I used:

Here's what I did: First, if you have 4 or more subs, recognize that subbing will have to be someone's primary job -- it's hard to coach and sub if you have a lot of subs. So, either get someone to do the subbing or to help you coach during the games. Start with a roster by positions, and who will start, and write down where the subs will play when they go in -- keep this list in your hand or pocket during the game. Buy a wristwatch with a countdown timer that has an alarm -- you can get these at Target and Wal-Mart for about $25. Decide how frequently you will sub. I set my timer for 5 minutes, but I coached boys who got restless quickly. We could only sub on our throw-ins, goal kicks and a few other times, so it would often be 6 to 8 minutes before I could get the subs to the Halfway Line (which our refs required) and yell "Sub". I found I kept their attention better if they weren't out of the game for very long. You will get some griping no matter which approach you use. If you sub frequently, your players should stay fresher (especially on a hot day), there's less chance of them wandering off, and players will feel like they've played more than if they are sitting for long periods on the sideline.

More Thoughts On How To Sub Rec Teams. As you know, it isn't easy to ensure equal playing time. An alternative to trying to give every player exactly the same amount of playing time is to promise that each player will play at least half the game and to sub the positions that run the most and to sub the least popular positions (Fullback) the least. For example, I sometimes just rotated 4 players among my 3 Fullback positions, so the Fullbacks played more, because they didn't run as much and it wasn't a position that players begged to play. I tried to sub the Midfielders a lot because they run the most, and sometimes I had 2 midfielders for each position who each played 50% of the game. I would sub the Forwards a lot too.

Here's how I kept up with it: We played 2 halves and I listed all the positions for each half on the left side of the page and the 2nd half on the right side of the page. Beside each position I listed the players who would rotate into those positions. An example is below (R is right side, L is left, C is center, F is forward, MF is Midfielder, ST is stopper, FB is fullback and G is goalie). As an example: If I had 4 players to rotate at the 3 Forward positions, I would sub after 5 minutes and then keep rotating the players who were on the bench (so, in the example below, Danny, Sam and Joe would start and Billy would sub in for Danny. Then Danny would sub in for Sam and then Sam would sub in for Joe).

If it doesn't matter to you which positions the players play, it will be easier.

I suggest this approach:

Go to Target or Wal-Mart and buy a Timex or Casio sports watch with a countdown timer (about $25). Set the timer on 5 minutes and start it when the game starts. It will ring after 5 minutes and when you're able to get the subs into the game you press the button so it restarts. Players will complain about being subbed no matter whether it's 5 minutes, 7 or 10. I found that if I tried to sub at 5 minutes, I could usually get them subbed by 7 minutes. By subbing frequently the players stayed more involved in the game.

Sub in "groups". The simplest thing is to sub the entire midfield or all Midfielders and Forwards.

David at SoccerHelp

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Hi SoccerHelp,

So you favor subbing more frequently, correct? Our concern was that subbing 7 minutes (=/- of course) would be too brief a period of time.

7th Grade Coach

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Hi 7th Grade Coach,

I preferred subbing frequently because it kept my players on the sideline "in the game" and they didn't get bored. If you had a Select/Travel team you would sub less frequently so players got a longer stretch of playing time, but your team is Rec.

There are 4 advantages to subbing frequently:

  1. It keeps the players on the sideline "in the game" and they don't get bored. So, it�s more fun, and that�s the main objective of Rec soccer.
  2. It gives all the players frequent breaks, so they don't get worn out. I had some players who could run all day, but most got tired quickly.
  3. While my players were in the game, I expected them to give a 100% effort, which they did because they knew they would get a break soon. I told them �Play hard while you are in the game � give it 100%�.
  4. There is less chance that someone will feel they didn�t get to play enough.

I didn't sub all positions the same amount -- I subbed my MFs and Forwards a LOT, because they were running a lot. When I Defended Deep, I would sub my FBs less, and sometimes they might play the entire game without being subbed if I didn't have subs for them -- I had to use my subs for the "running" positions. So, if you are short on subs, one strategy is to Defend Deep and don't sub your FBs.

Please let me know what you do and how it works.

David at SoccerHelp